Arts & Review Uncategorized

Monument Valley sets a new standard for iOS game design

There once was a princess who fell in love with geometry.

That is the first line of the story outlined in Monument Valley, an iOS game created by Ustwo.  The main character, Princess Ida, is a simply designed sprite with a white, conical hat.  She sets off on a quest for forgiveness.  (Why she needs to be forgiven, no one but the producers will ever know.)

In her journey, each level brings a new element of surprise, requiring the user to apply different strategies in order to win.  One of the most intricate levels is designed like a box, in which you have to pull out each of the walls and accomplish a mini-mission.  Every accomplished mini-mission activates a light, and once all four lights on the box have been lit, the final mini-mission opens up the entire box and leads you to the final platform.

Another amazing level brings Ida to a dark, shadowed cave.  Picking up a bright red flower on the floor, you find yourself at a grave and solemnly pay your respects to the deceased at the goal.

The plot is a bit of a mess, leaving the player in the dark as to why Ida is wandering through all these geometrically impossible structures, but the amazing 3D, minimalistic, Japanese-inspired art makes up for it.  Winning awards such as the 2014 Apple iPad Game of the Year, 2014 Apple Design Award Winner, and 2015 GDC’s Best Visual Art Award, this game has met so much success that the original 10-level game has a bonus level, “Ida’s Dream” which was made for charity, as well as an 8-level extension titled “Forgotten Shores.”

A great game to play on a long car or plane ride, Monument Valley is strong in both visual design and gameplay.  And more than that, it’s inexplicably simple.  Everything is a standard solid-color geometric shape, making it not only easy to understand how to play but also pleasing to the eyes.

As much as I would hate to play a geometry-based game in my free time, Monument Valley is really something special.  From manipulating the Penrose triangle to activating little buttons and levers, Ida will follow your taps to get to her final goal.  But don’t worry, you don’t need any knowledge of math to be able to play the game; this app is the opposite of a nerdy intellectual game, instead appealing more to your inner artist and gamer.

The game carries a deep, touching message despite not having a coherent plot at all.  But the real vice of the game is not the lack of a story: it’s that there are only ten levels.  Hopefully, the developers continue to create a series stemming from Monument Valley.  This game sets the bar high for all iOS apps, leaving the user hungry for more stories about Ida and the forgotten kingdom of shapes.

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